The Gospel According To Luke
“A Jesus Who Calms Our Fears”
Pastor Duane Smets
January 14th, 2018
God Cares (v22-28)
God Knows (v29-31)
God Gives (v32-34)
Well, today we jump back into our study of The Gospel of Luke in the Bible. We started working through Luke about a year ago in our quest to get to know and understand this Jesus more, who He is and the mission He has called us to, to engage all people.
If you’re new to our church, our normal practice during this portion of our worship service is to preach through books of the Bible. So we take a chunk at a time and do our best to read it, understand it and apply it to our lives. We do this because we believe these are truly words sent from God to us and that in this book God has truly given us “everything we need for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3).”
We believe following Jesus and the teaching of this book is truly the best way you can live your life. Maybe that’s not where you’re at today and that’s okay. I’m glad you’re here. My prayer is that somehow today, you’d come to see and believe that too and join in with us in that quest.
As we jump back into Luke, the section we come upon is a teaching of Jesus about anxiety, worry, and fear. Something he says all human beings of all races have dealt with. What a relevant topic for us today and the time and place we find ourselves in human history and particularly in our country.
In response to numerous studies documenting the increasing levels of fear, anxiety and worry about us last year Time magazine did an article titled, “Fear in America: Why We’re More Afraid Than Ever Before.” People are afraid. Afraid of political leaders and their decisions. Afraid of economics and whether they’ll be alright financially. Afraid of careers and having meaningful work. Afraid of relationships in social media culture of constant critique.
People are afraid. More people today report regularly having high levels of anxiety and anxiety attack episodes are way up. We are the most medicated country in the entire world and a 1 in 6 Americans regularly take anti-depressants.
And this isn’t even an adult thing. It’s children too.. The documentary Screenagers investigates how even too much screen time is causing more and more anxiety among children at younger and younger ages. Just this last fall I got an email from my fourth-grade daughters teacher saying they were starting a support group for a number of students who had been experiencing high levels of anxiety in the classroom.
Rolling Stone magazine recently published an article titled, “Why We’re Living In An Age Of Fear”. The New York Times did one called, “America’s New Anxiety Disorder.” And now the term “Culture of Fear” or “Climate of Fear” has been codified as a phrase to describe a specific kind of work environment or the emotional state of a given people group.
It’s into this context that Jesus speaks today. It’s almost been 2000 years since Jesus came and His what He said and what He did are still just as relevant, extremely relevant. So let’s take a look at what He said in a sermon I’ve titled, “A Jesus Who Calms Our Fears.”
And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
• Pastoral Declaration: This is the Word of the Lord.
• Congregational Response: Thanks Be To God.
Jesus uses three terms in this teaching to address a core issue we have as human beings: anxiety, worry, and fear. What makes you anxious? What do you worry about? What do you fear?
These are real things. Ed Welch is a licensed psychologist who also happens to be a Christian and a very good theologian too who helped start a whole Christian counseling foundation based out of Pennsylvania. He wrote what is probably one of the best books out there on fear titled, Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest. Here’s some of the things he says in it…
“Fear and worry run deep in us all. Fear and worry have meaning. They say something. Fear and worry reveal to us the things we love and value. Any time you love or want something deeply you will notice fear and anxiety because you might not get them. Any time you can’t control the fate of those things you want or love you will notice fears and anxieties because you might lose them. Life is risky. Treasured dreams often rise and fall on our performance and the outcomes. Fear is a door to our spiritual reality.”
Fear is a big deal. Fear, which often expresses itself as stress or anxiety and it can cause all kinds of bodily symptoms such as: heart palpitations, sweaty palms, perspiration, tension headaches, clinched jaw, impotence, rapid breathing, loss of appetite, increased appetite, problems sleeping, high blood pressure and host of other things. So fear is a spiritual issue which can become a medical issue.
If I was able to sit down with each on of you, one on one in my office and ask you, “What are your fears? What do you worry about? What gives you anxiety and make you uneasy?” What would you say?
To help process what Jesus has to say to us on this issue, I’ve got three sort of summary points for us to walk through today, “God Knows, God Cares and God Gives” and if there’s one principle that ties it all together I’m hoping we’ll all walk away with believing today, it’s this, “God’s got you.”
God Cares (v22-28)
In this first point “God Cares” I want to look at the part where Jesus talks about birds, flowers and grass. So much to learn from birds flowers and grass.
To begin with Jesus said in verse 22-23, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”
First off, notice the weight Jesus puts on His own words. “Therefore I tell you.” Jesus is claiming to have special insight into this, providing an alternative perspective that is worth listening to and following. Others may tell you this, but I tell you…Jesus claims to have a superior understanding that we ought to listen to and believe.
Then he makes a huge philosophical claim asserting that life is more than just food and clothing. This is contrary both to naturalistic biological perspectives and economic and sociological perspectives of life.
A purely biological perspective would say that life is merely what is physical, our skin, flesh and bones…that we have basic needs to survive, food and shelter, and when we die that’s it. We’re just biological animals or organisms. Jesus says no, we’re more than that and life is about more than that.
A purely economical perspective would say that life is about making money in order to buy things like food and clothes. Thus, you need to make sure that you have enough of it and assumption goes, the more of it you have the happier you are.
A purely sociological perspective would say that life is about being esteemed by others, which people have primarily tried to do for hundreds and thousands of years through food and clothes. From Solomon to modern Celebrities, it’s about what you’re wearing, where you’re eating and having others envy you.
Jesus says all those perspectives miss the mark and says, “I tell you” life is about more than that. Interestingly, the Greek word behind “life” here is not the normal word for life, which is zoe. The word here is psueche, the word that normally gets translated “soul.”
Life is about the life of your soul. If the pursuit of your life only has a biological perspective and not an eternal one, you’ll ignore your soul. If the pursuit of your life only has an economic perspective and not spiritual perspective, you’ll sell your soul. If the purist of your life only has a social perspective and not a relational perspective, you’ll lose your soul.
Life is about the life of your soul. Your body and its physical needs and your soul and its spiritual needs are not two separate things, they are interconnected.
Man it’s easy to get caught up in these things isn’t it?
Food issues. Either eating too much or not enough. Gorging ourselves or starving ourselves. What food we buy at the grocery store. What restaurants we eat at.
Clothes issues. Why shopping mall exist. What we purchase. And this also include body image issues. How we look in the mirror. How much we go to the gym and why.
All this stuff. It’s so easy for this to become what our lives are all about isn’t it? And when they do anxiety, worry and fear set in.
To help free us from the pressures these things bring, Jesus invites us to set our eyes and our life upon God and He does so with some real practical examples telling us to consider the birds, the flowers and the grass.
In verse 24 Jesus says to think about the birds. Birds, especially ravens, are pretty much just scavengers. They pick off whatever they can find for food. Bits of this and that. Seeds, grain, dead animals, crumbs, worms. They don’t store it up at all. They don’t make any food. When they get hungry they just go hunting and they find. God’s made the earth such a place that normally they can find something. God provides for them.
So considering the birds Jesus says in verse 24, “God feeds them. (And) how much more value are you than birds!”
Now I know in our culture everyone likes to project human qualities and characteristics onto animals, pretending they’re humans. But they’re not. They have a class of being. They are creatures of God. But human beings are of a higher class.
According to the Bible only humans were created in God’s image, so human have a special place and value in the eyes of God. So if God cares even for the birds, which are near the bottom of the food chain, how much more will God care for you, His most valuable creation?
Next Jesus says to consider the lilies. My wife loves it when I get her flowers. Sometimes I get her lilies. A lily is a beautiful flower. Have you ever really looked at one? They come in a number of colors. I love the white ones. The white against the bright green backdrop. They look like a star to me. So pretty. They smell good. Such an amazing, symmetrical design with the irises popping out.
Jesus says, lilies just grow like that. Nobody does anything to make them look that good. Unlike clothes that you have to make with cotton or fur that is sewn and stitched, lilies don’t do that. And Jesus says their clothing is beautiful, that even Solomon in all his glory didn’t look that good.
Solomon was the wealthiest king in all of Israel’s history. Had whatever he wanted and was pretty into fancy robes. Some real Dulce and Gabanna and Gucci stuff you know. But they pale in comparison to the clothing of a lily.
Then after looking at the birds and the lilies, Jesus talks about grass. Grass just grows. Everywhere. It just does. Typically if there’s dirt, unless it’s a desert, at some point during the year some type of grass will grow. When summer comes it will dry out and die out and each year God keeps making the grass grow. If God keeps up the grass how more will He keep you and keep growing you.
You see the overarching theme with all of Jesus’ examples is that God is the Creator and designer of everything and that He cares for His creation, all of it. And among all of it He cares for human beings the most. We have extreme value to Him.
So let’s connect the dots. Anxiety, worry and fear. Pretty much anytime we experience them, what it really boils down to is not believing that God cares for us. When we really believe God cares for us…we don’t care about whether we’ll have enough, we care about getting rich and we don’t care so much about what people think of us.
To cope with anxiety, worry and fear you can take pills, you can do breathing exercises, you can try different mental techniques, you can launch into action and try to change or fix the thing bothering you…but the best thing of all to do is to set your mind and God and believe that He truly cares for you. More than you could ever dream or imagine.
It’s not bad to like food, work had to buy food, buy clothes or to be fit. But we can’t make our lives all about that because we’ll do it at the expense of our soul. What our souls need most is God. God cares for you. He’s got you.
Well, let’s move on to our next point, “God Knows.”
God Knows (v29-31)
In this point I want to look at Jesus’ words in verses 29-31 where He says these issues of anxiety, worry and fear are universal human issues across all races and then gives us some actions steps.
In our last point He just said to consider the birds, the flowers and the grass. So basically He just said, “think about this” and called us to think upon the truth that God cares. In this point Jesus gives us an action step, to seek God.
First he says everyone is always seeking. We are made to seek. As human beings we can’t get away from questions like, “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “What am I supposed to do with my life?” This is one of the many things that do make us different than animals. They don’t ask those kind of questions. Only human beings do.
I believe we are supposed to ask those kinds of questions…that God made us to seek.
Here’s how the Bible says it in Acts 17:26-27
“God made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him.”
And one more passage. Deuteronomy 4:29 “If you will seek the Lord your God, you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
We are supposed to seek God out. God wants us to seek Him. Why?
Well, one reason is I don’t believe we find any good answers outside of God. Who am I? Why am I here? What am I supposed to do with my life? Answers outside of God either end up in meaningless nihilism or self-absorbed materialism which both just bring death to the soul.
But I think there actually an even bigger and better reason to seek God than just that other answers aren’t as good. Jesus says here the reason we’re to seek Him is because He’s a Father who knows our needs. He knows.
Look, this is a common issue, amongst all human beings. Jesus says it’s common amongst what our translation says, “all the nations.” The word, “nations” here is actually translated from the Greek word, ethnos where we get the English word “ethnicity”. So personally I think the word “ethnicities” would be a better translation. All the ethnicities of the world seek after these things.
It’s a universal problem. Something that unites all our races, regardless of the color of our skin. We all worry about food and drink and clothes and money. All of us. Everyone in this room.
The word “worry” here is interesting. It literally means being up in the air, where something is blown and tossed this way and that and you don’t know which way it’s going to go. The same word was often used of ships being tossed about in a storm and you don’t know if it’s going to make out without sinking. That’s the picture of worry.
A neuroscientist named Joseph LeDoux says worry anxiety and fear about something that hasn’t happened and may never happen. Then he says mental activity that occurs is all kinds of synapses firing in the nervous system stimulating various chemical in the brain which ends up having this bodily effect of exhaustion and can even cause sickness. I guess that’s why doctors are always blaming stress for everything.
Jesus says, “your Father knows” so “instead seek His kingdom.”
The Father knows. God knows. You see the picture of God is Him looking out over all the activity of earth, of everything happening and He sees everything. He sees it all. Every conversation. Every transaction. Every event. Everything that ever happens He sees it all. But He even sees more than that.
He doesn’t just see things from an outside perspective, seeing what’s happening. But He sees into the hearts and the minds of His most valued creatures. He sees into what we think and what we feel.
Check out this verse. 2 Chronicles 16:9 “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”
God the Father knows. He knows. God knows what you need and has promised to provide and to care for you. Because that’s true there’s no need to fear and worry.
The Bible is full of passages where God says to fear not.
Genesis 15:1 “Fear not…I am your shield; your great reward.”
Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Joel 2:21 “Fear not, be glad and rejoice, for the LORD has done great things!”
Over and over and over again…fear not. When we have God as our Father there is truly nothing to fear. Because He knows. Our Father is a good Father who is watching over us and He knows what we go through and He knows what we need.
John Calvin said it this way, “The author of our life has an intimate knowledge of our condition and will entertain no doubt that He will make provision.”
Because God knows we can seek Him and know that as a good Father who rules as king over all, that He will provide for us, giving us exactly what we need. How do we seek Him? There are lots of ways. I think it’s most simply trust. That often expresses itself in prayer. A good example is how the Apostle Paul breaks it down in Philippians 4.
The context is actually talking about financial hardship and he says, Philippians 4:5-6 "The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Just seek God and tell Him what you need and God will take care of you.
Today are you doing that with your life? Are you seeking God? Or are you seeking other things? What are your sights set on? There’s nothing more comforting than to know and believe that God is a good Father who knows what we need and will provide for us.
I just bought all my kids new shoes because they thrashed them at school this last semester. We spent nearly all of last Saturday shopping for shoes. At one point one of my daughters started getting worried about the money and how much the shoes were going to cost. I told her, “Honey, that’s not for you to worry about. Daddy’s got it.”
God knows our needs and He’s got us. He’s got you.
Well, let’s move on to our final point for today, “God Gives.”
God Gives (v32-34)
In this last point, I want to look at Jesus’ words in verses 32-33 where He says not to fear little flock and calls us to be generous people like God.
One of the metaphors Jesus frequently used for our relationship to Him is one where we are sheep with Him as our shepherd. So here He says, “fear not, little flock.” Those sound like tender words to me.
We are sheep. Sheep tend to get skittish and scared. The world can be a scary place.
As Cat Stevens said, “Ooo baby baby it’s a wild world…it’s hard to get by just upon a smile.”
On another occasion Jesus said, we’re like sheep in the midst wolves. But He comes to us lost sheep as a guide, a protector, and a provider and says, “it’s God’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
God’s the King who owns everything. He has all the power and all the resources at His fingertips and He delights in providing for His children, the sheep of His pasture. It’s His good pleasure. Simply put, God is a giving God.
It’s kind of just what God does. He gives life. He sustains life-giving sun and rain and food. He gives strength to work. He gives grace for sin. He gives His Son. He gives salvation. He gives His spirit. God just gives and gives and gives and delights to give.
It’s in light, Jesus essentially says we’re to be a giving people…selling possessions, giving money away, seeing our ultimate treasure as heaven.
No just a couple words of clarification on verse 33 and 34.
First, they are a massive blow to what’s known as the “prosperity gospel” which says if you just have enough faith things will go well for you financially and physically, being able to pray prayers of faith to get jobs, money or to heal people. Verse 33 destroys that notion.
Second, Jesus isn’t saying here that everyone should become homeless and have no personal property or possessions. In other places, He tells us to be good stewards and to invest our money well and to provide for our families.
Jesus is very clear that what He’s after is our hearts and what they latch on to and put their hope in. If our money or possessions are a hindrance or barrier to God then yeah, maybe you need to get rid of it all kind of like when Jesus said if your eye keeps causing you to sin then to cut it out or if your hand does to cut it off. Jesus will sometimes take things to the extreme to get our attention.
The principle here is what owns our hearts.
Greed is when you can never have enough. Worry is being afraid that you won’t have enough. What Jesus is calling us to is neither need or greed but to put our focus on eternal treasure, the things which really last.
Last week we talked about how whenever we get something new, we’re all excited about it at first but then after awhile it gets old and you don’t care about it as much anymore. Here Jesus says ultimately every physical item we own will fail and be destroyed or taken up by another.
Thus the better investment place is to invest in things that have eternal value.
A man named David Gooding said it this way, “Store up your treasure on earth and it will inevitably pull your heart in the direction of earth. Store it in heaven and it will pull your heart and with it your goals, ambitions, and longings toward heaven.”
When we do that, when we let go, it really does have this way of casting out the fear, the stress, the worry, and God’s peace enters in. It’s true that we’re a happier people when we are a giving people being generous like God.
A few years ago a book came out titled “The Paradox of Generosity.” It’s not a Christian book. Not written by a Christian or anything like that. The book is the product of a national study done by the University of Notre Dame. Thousands of people were surveyed and then interviewed about their generosity and their well-being and the results were shocking.
Overwhelming they discovered that people who were more generous, who give more are happier, have better bodily health, feel more purpose in living and avoid depression. Here’s what Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson say based on the results of their findings,
“Generosity is paradoxical. Those who give, receive back in turn. By spending ourselves for others’ well-being, we enhance our own standing. This is not only a philosophical or religious teaching; it is a sociological fact based on empirical scientific research. It is no coincidence that the word ‘miser’ is etymologically related to the word, ‘miserable.’
It might seem obvious that generously giving away money always involves a loss - of the money itself, of course, and of the good, experiences, or savings that the money might have provided the giver had it not been given away. It also seems evident that donating one’s own limited time, energy and attention to someone else’s concerns similarly represents a loss…But more often and importantly, generous people tend to receive back goods that are even more valuable than those they gave: happiness, health, a sense of purpose in life and personal growth.”
Pretty incredible. The paradox of giving is that God has hard-wired us to find happiness in giving hope. His power works through us being a generous people.
So real simple on this last point. Are you a generous person? Are you generous with what God has given you? Or do you hold it all in? Where is your treasure? In earthly things? Or in heavenly things?
Because God gives to us we can give toward others, towards His church and His mission. May God help us to believe that it’s God’s good pleasure to give and may that make us an increasingly generous people. God gives to us. He’s got us.
Well, let’s conclude. God cares. God knows. God gives. We started out today talking about fear, anxiety and worry and how Jesus says it has a lot to do with food and clothes.
Interestingly, the story of where fear, anxiety, and worry first entered into the human race happened in a garden where a man and woman named Adam and Eve were worried that the food God had given them wasn’t good enough, so instead of seeking God out they sought out other fruit and ate it. Immediately they became afraid and hid and made themselves clothes out of fig leaves.
After that God showed up and was saddened to see them hiding in fear, full of worry and anxiety in shabby clothes of leaves. So God made new clothes for them and promised one day to send a Son who would conquer their fear, guilt, and shame forever more.
When Jesus came, that’s exactly what He did. Nothing Jesus calls us to believe and to do in His teaching we looked at today is anything that He didn’t do. Jesus did it all. He gave up all His possessions, trusting the Father’s plan and provision, in the very end giving up even His robe and then died on the cross for the fear, guilt, and shame of His sheep.
You see what Jesus calls us to in the text today is so hard. It’s impossible. None of us have ever lived up to it or could. We all get caught up in food, clothes, money, the things of the world, seeking our own kingdoms, hoarding what we have, not being generous, not trusting, not believing that God cares, knows and will give to us.
We’ve all failed at it. But Jesus didn’t and went to the cross for all our failures and rose to new life winning the kingdom. The kingdom now belongs to Christ and He shares it with any who will have Him and follow Him as the shepherd. His inheritance becomes ours.
So where we end today is looking at Jesus. He said where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also…so today, let’s have Jesus as our treasure. In Him we are rich, clothed in white robes of righteousness and fed the eternal life from His banquet table and fountain of living water. Through Jesus, God happily gives us the kingdom.
Let’s all stand and prepare to respond. The way we do that each week is by reading some words of confession followed by some words of assurance and then receiving the tangible elements of Jesus’ grace. His blood in the bread and wine through which God imparts the eternal life of His kingdom.
Lord, help us to believe that You care for us and value us above all creation. Lord, help us believe that You know our needs and will provide. Lord help us to be generous like You and seek heavenly treasure.
God cares for us more than we could ever imagine. Our Father knows our needs and delights to provide for us. Through Jesus we have received the treasures of heaven.